WAUKEGAN, Ill. — She hasn’t played a minute of basketball for her eighth grade team yet but Camille Jackson of Chicago isn’t wasting any time getting to know the powers of women’s college basketball.
Jackson, a 5-foot-9 guard from the class of 2022, has earned Blue Star 30 status (she wasn’t able to make it to Washington D.C. last week) and received the attention that frequently goes with such an accolade.
“All of the main people have seen her play,” said her coach, Xaver Walton of the Illinois X-Citement 17 JOI SF squad. “Notre Dame has called me, Louisville has called me. She does have an offer from Xavier.”
More will come, sooner than later.
At this point, Jackson’s main attribute is her uncanny ability to get to the rim – even if she tends to favor her right hand.
“Her strength right now is her ability to blow by defenders,” Walton acknowledged. “But if you’re open, she passes. If you are a knockdown shooter and you play with Camille, when that help comes, all you have to do is be ready to shoot. She’s not timid, a good teammate and she passes well. She’s got a good IQ also.”
Jackson showed off that ability at the 14th annual USJN Summer Final Midwest in the Chicago area, squaring off against a bevy of seniors in the toughest pools. She nearly wrecked the Illinois Rockets with her penetration despite the Rockets’ best efforts to prevent her from going to her right.
“I tell her, you can go left when you want to, but our post player is left-handed,” Walton said. “On this team she drives right a lot so when she has to dump it, she hits Nadege (Jean) for a layup. We’re going to keep working on her left. Year after year she’s gotten better. She’s a gym rat. She usually works out with me four to five times a week.
“She can touch the rim. She is one phenomenal kid. She does have a midrange pull-up jumpshot, she uses it sparingly, and we’re still working on her three-ball. I tell her, you get that three-ball, and then the unstoppable term would really be (applicable).”
She won’t enter high school until 2018, when she’s expected to play for Butler College Park, coached by Walton.
“She’s so sweet, that’s the best thing about her,” he said.
LADY LIGHTNING’s ZACKER RECOVERING AGAIN
Zoe Zacker of the Illinois Lady Lightning is recovering from the torn ACL in her left knee that ended her season in December. It was the second consecutive season she suffered the same injury in the same knee.
Her spirits, however, haven’t taken a fall. Zacker spend the weekend cheering on her teammates on the Lightning’s top squad, dressed and moving well but unable to play.
“I’m happy to be back with them,” she said during the Summer Final. “I love this team – on or off the court.”
Zacker, a 2019 product from the heralded Montini Catholic program, is a 5-10 sharpshooting guard. She was considered among the top 100 players in her class by some, even if injuries have been a near-constant deterrent. Now, however, Zacker feels everything is in order for a return to the court by the start of the high school season.
“(The knee) is really good, I’m really happy,” she said. Zacker is moving well but hasn’t started cutting or dealing with contact, which will come soon. The second surgery, performed by Dr. Brian Cole of Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, has given her confidence that she’ll be less inclined to experience a third tear. Her rehab, facilitated by a therapist who was a former college athlete, has strengthened her body and her resolve.
“I know this time it’s been a lot different with the amount of work that I do, and the amount of physical therapy and specific care that I get,” she said. “I’m confident in that. There were a lot of little reasons that could have impacted the first ACL to cause the second ACL. but I know that the focus on little mechanics and fundamentals is really big and a huge focus for me.
“Even though statistics say there’s a chance it will happen, I’m really confident that I’ll be strong enough.”
Apparently, there are others who believe likewise, including Wisconsin coach Jonathan Tsipis, who offered her a scholarship the day after she revealed her had torn the ACL a second time.
“It was one of the most uplifting things that’s happened,” Zacker said. “For Coach Tsipis to do that was such a big thing and that really stood out to me. But there’s a few other colleges I’ve been looking at. My sister goes to the University of Illinois and studies engineering, so when they started showing interest in me it was really exciting. I’m looking at academics, too, and that’s a big thing for me as well.”
Zacker said she’ll take roughly five unofficial visits this fall and “I hope that will clear some stuff up for me.”
CY-FAIR ELITE, PHILLY BELLES SHINE BRIGHTEST
Pool A competition in the 17U division was led by the Philadelphia Belles 17 EYBL squad which was without Blue Star 30 Maddie Burke. The Belles went 4-1, losing only to Wisconsin Elite by two points in their final game. Forward Faith Masonius (2019) had a dominating tournament, using her varied skill set to propel the Belles.
Pool B was dominated by another EYBL squad, Cy-Fair Elite 16, which played the event with just six players. USA Basketball U16 National Team trials participants Jordyn Merritt and Deja Kelly weren’t with the team last weekend (Blue Star 30) but Cy-Fair rolled anyway, with 2018 guard Maddie Williams and a frontline that goes 6-2, 6-5, 6-7 doing the most damage during a 5-0 mark.
WISCONSIN ACADEMY FEELS AT HOME IN CHICAGO
Wisconsin Academy is a program that makes its presence felt at USJN events in Chicago on a regular basis, and last weekend was no exception.
The Academy 17 Pickett squad won the bracket for Pools C-J in the 17U division, topping Indiana Always 100 16 Wright in the final, 68-47.
The Academy is led by 5-9 2018 guard Jayda Jensen, a solid penetrator who has an offer from Eastern Illinois, and backcourt mate Hannah Jones (2018). The Academy’s frontcourt is no less capable, topped by a pair of ‘18s, 6-0 Sydney Mathiason and stout 6-footer Cici Rindy.
“And they run the floor well for big kids,” coach Brad Pickett said. “They’re athletic.”
ALWAYS 100 CLAIMS 15U TITLE
The Always 100 15 Smith team earned a hard-fought championship by defeating Illinois’ Quad City Attack 15 in the title game, 51-39, despite missing its best players.
Leigha Brown, a 6-2 2018 commit to Nebraska, wasn’t available along with the only other ’18 on the roster, guard Kelli Damman who recently received an offer from Oakland. Always 100 prevailed anyway, getting solid production from multiple players, most notably 6-1 2019 product Sophia Nolan.
“To fill in for 30 points out of our lineup, the girls stepped up,” coach Julius Smith said.
Nolan has a soft touch around the basket and has a great stroke from the foul line, an indication that she is capable of stepping out farther on the court.
“Great outside touch,” Smith said. “I think she’s been pushed down to the post for most of her young career, and we’re starting to move her to the outside. I think she’s doing a good job of making that adjustment so that she can be that big wing player at the next level.”
DOUBLE OT THRILLER IN 14U FINAL
His team was playing its third game of the day – with just seven players – against a team playing its second game, but double overtime didn’t prevent Bob Saxman’s Michigan Force 14 from taking the championship in the 14U division with a 57-55 win against the Wisconsin Purple Aces 14.
In the second OT, the Purple Aces missed three shots in the final seconds before the Force’s Madelyn Alexander grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 2.4 seconds left. She sank both free throws, and the Aces’ Jaddan Simmons’ halfcourt shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
“We were missing our point guard, Abby Long who was ill, and we had players step up and fill that role and take those minutes,” Saxman said. “The whole weekend what amazed me was we had different players stepping up every game. We hung around and hung around and made stops when we needed to.”